Ridhwan takes IBO belt and eyes world title bid

Muhamad Ridhwan on the attack as Nataneal Sebastian shields himself during the super-featherweight bout on Friday night. It was the first time that the self-styled "Chosen Wan" had been taken to 12 rounds in his career.
Muhamad Ridhwan on the attack as Nataneal Sebastian shields himself during the super-featherweight bout on Friday night. It was the first time that the self-styled "Chosen Wan" had been taken to 12 rounds in his career.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

He has a perfect 9-0 record now but what Singapore boxer Muhamad Ridhwan really wants is a crack at a world title.

His confidence boosted after a unanimous-decision victory over Namibian Nataneal Sebastian to claim the International Boxing Organisation (IBO) international super-featherweight (58.97kg) title, he said: "The goal is for a world-title shot eventually, so we just have to keep winning and then we'll see what happens."

Facing a dogged, powerful opponent over the full 12 rounds watched by more than 4,000 fans, Ridhwan overcame the toughest challenge in his professional career on Friday night.

The three judges at the Suntec Convention Centre scored the bout 115-113, 115-113 and 115-114 in favour of the Singaporean.

Sebastian, who was announced as a late replacement for South African Koos Sibiya last month, fell to his first defeat in 10 fights.

The Roar of Singapore III's main event featured two previously undefeated fighters, and was the first time Ridhwan had been taken to 12 rounds in his career. Of his nine wins, seven had come by way of a knockout.

As the judges' scores indicated, every round was close. What the scores did not show was that each round was a war as well, with both men combining to produce some of the night's best exchanges.

"I'm glad the fight is over. It was a tough 12 rounds but also it was something that we prepared for," said Ridhwan, 29, exhaustion etched upon his face as he sat slightly slumped in his dressing room after the fight, surrounded by friends and family.

"This win shows our skill, willpower and strength that came from our preparation."

The three-time SEA Games bronze medallist said that getting in a sparring partner from the Philippines before the fight had been crucial, allowing him and coach Rey Caitom Jr to formulate the right fight plan against Sebastian.

Ridhwan had looked in trouble several times when pushed into the corner by the powerful Sebastian, but had the better of the exchanges in the middle of the ring.

"We knew the opponent was not as strong in the middle; he doesn't know how to box there so that was our plan," said Caitom.

"We always find a way to win."

Ridhwan, who fought for the fourth time this year, expects to have an even busier 2018 with at least five fights lined up.

But first will come a well-deserved break.

Said the man who calls himself the Chosen Wan: "What's next? It's prata time!

"After that I'll go back to training and then it depends on what my coach and promoter want me to do."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 22, 2017, with the headline 'Ridhwan takes IBO belt and eyes world title bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe